Newton Public Schools (NPS) officials are committed to ensuring that all students, faculty, and staff are prepared to stay safe in the case of an emergency at any school in the city, according to speakers at a webinar on Wednesday evening.
“We’re always in strategic planning and training mode,” Toby Romer, assistant superintendent for secondary education and special programs at NPS, said during the meeting.
NPS officials and representatives from the Newton Police Department (NPD) and the Newton Fire Department (NFD) hosted the webinar to inform parents of students about the safety procedures and policies administrators have in place, according to Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller’s newsletter.
Romer spoke about the logistics of the NPS emergency response systems and the everyday management of a safe learning community, created in collaboration with safety partners.
“Our goals tonight are to share how Newton Public Schools and our safety partners create a safe and supportive school environment,” he said. “We’re also going to talk more about how we create those safe school communities focused on wellness and wellbeing because those really are the undergirding of safe school communities.”
Romer said there are three tiers of school safety: universal, targeted, and intensive.
Universal tier actions, or tier one actions, are taken on a daily basis and include tasks such as keeping doors locked and assigning visitor badges, he said. According to Romer, targeted tier actions include regular evacuation and lockdown drills and addressing bullying concerns, and intensive tier actions involve swift responses to any emergencies or threats, such as evacuation or shelter-in-place orders.
“Those tier one supports ensure that everyone in our schools have the health and medical supports they need on a day-to-day basis and are prepared for medical emergencies as well,” Romer said.
Romer also discussed security measures taken in NPS buildings. While high school students are allowed to leave campus during lunch, many policies are in place to keep the buildings secure, according to the presentation.
“Any visitors coming into the building are to enter through specific doors to sign in and have restricted access to the different areas of the building,” he said.
Amanda Henrickson, a lieutenant for NPD, said the department directs four police officers to train in dealing with juvenile incidents and work closely with NPS to ensure safety in both daily situations and emergencies.
“Our youth officers are trained to handle and investigate sexual assaults,” Henrickson said. “They’ve also received various training in handling incidents with youth with mental health issues.”
Romer mentioned the NPS emergency operations plan, a plan for emergency situations within schools that was revised this year after its creation in 2019. The plan details the necessary responses for a variety of potential contingencies.
Posters outlining this plan hang in every classroom and illustrate four main responses to emergencies: evacuation, shelter in place, lockdown, and hostile event response, he said. The entire plan, which is accessible to teachers and school administrators, outlines the procedure for more specific incidents.
Romer said there is an important distinction between sheltering in place and lockdown.
“Shelter in place is a response to a security threat that’s outside the building,” he said. “The hostile event response is summarized by the phrase ‘run and hide,’ and that’s a response to an active shooter.”
Michael White, a lieutenant in the NFD, said NPS often engages in drills for each of the four responses, and evacuation drills are led and scheduled by the fire prevention bureau.
“The students practice getting better at each one with our fire prevention guys,” White said. “We also do quarterly inspections going through the schools to ensure the fire safety regulations are being met.”